Friday, April 23, 2010

“Avadhutha” Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra

Hello readers,

As part of the “Entaro Mahanubavulu” series I am glad to present the Third article. Though am not qualified to present articles of great personalities however decided to share the info so that we come to know about these great personalities. The article dwells about the 18th Century Composer Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra. He is not only a composer but who lived like an Avadhutha. Avadhuta is one who risen above bodily consciousness, duality of experiences like happiness or misery and worldly concerns. Avadhutas are not bound by social or even sanyasa dharma. They roams the earth freely like a child and they are pure consciousness embodied.

My first information about Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra came when I used to attend the weekly Bhajan session at Kovaipudur, Coimbatore where his compositions used to be sung by the Bhagavathars who conduct the Bhajan session. His compositions are very simple and yet convey a very strong and deep feeling.

I was fortunate to visit his Adhistanam at Nerur when I happened to visit one my relative who was posted at Karur. The aradhana for Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra is conducted annually at Nerur at his adhistanam. This year the 96th Aradhana celebrations is conducted from 18th May onwards. The 23rd May is the final Ardhana day which falls on Vaisakha Sudha Dasami. Those who are fortunate please attend this festival. Also try visiting this adhistanam at Nerur and you will feel the bliss which is situated on the banks of Cauvery. I am herewith attaching the Aradhana invitation for your reference.

Happy reading!

Warm Regards
A.V. Devan
Chennai – 22nd April 2010

PS : Two of the compositions of Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra and the 96th Aradhana invitation is attached for reference

Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra

The Southern India recognizes and adores Sadashiva Brahmendra as the celebrated composer of divine kirthanas; but not many may be aware he in his later years was an Avadhutha, a jeevan_muktha who lonely wandered the hills and dales, ran along the river banks, naked or semi naked, in a state of divine bliss. He unmindful of the scorching sun, pouring rain, blowing chill winds roamed in wilderness without ever uttering a word, slept under starry sky, shunned all human contact and was ever in a supreme intoxicated state. Today he is revered not merely for his musical compositions but also for his sublime Advaita text “Atma Vidya Vilasa” the most favorite spiritual text of Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi Swami the 34th Jagadguru of Sringeri Peetha. The swami , himself an Avadhuta, a week before his passing away, parted with all his meager passions but retained, on second thought, a copy of Atma Vidya Vilasa till the day prior to his departure.

Not many facts are known about his life. It is believed Sadashiva Brahmendra lived in the time of Sharabhoji, ruler of Tanjore (1712 -1728). This is based on the oral tradition that Sadashiva Brahmendra presented a copy of his work Atma Vidya Vilasa to King Sharbhoji when the king called on the Avadhuta to pay his respects.

Early Days

His childhood name was Shivaramakrishna. He was the son of Somasundaram Avadhani, a Vedic scholar of Telugu Niyogi origin who lived in Madurai in Tamil Nadu. It is said Shivarama's family name was 'Moksham' and his mother was Parvathy. He was born in Nerur situated by the quiet flowing Cauvery, near Karur in Tamilnadu. He had his early education in traditional subjects under Ramabhadra Dikshitar who lived in Tiruvisanallur also known as Shahajipuram. There the young Shivarama came under the influence of what were renowned as the triumvirate of Bhajana tradition viz. Sridhara Venkatesa Iyyaval, Sri Bhodendra Sarasathi and Bashyam Gopalakrishna Sastry.

On his return, Shivarama still in his early teens was promptly married. He however, soon thereafter ran away from home never to return. He went to Tiruvisanallur and while wandering aimlessly in the woods nearby, he met his Guru Sri Paramashivendra Sarasvati who initiated Shivarama into sanyasa and named him Sadashiva Brahmendra. The identity of Sri Paramashivendra Saraswati is a matter of debate. Some say he may have been an Acharya of the Kanchi peetham, guided by the suffix ”Indra Saraswathi” to his name. But an Acharya of that name appears in the annals of the Kanchi tradition as the 45th Jagadguru who presided over the mutt for 27 years from 1061 AD, that is about seven hundred years before the time of Sadashiva Brahmendra. The 57th Jagadguru Sri Paramasivendra Saraswathi II presided over the mutt from 1539 to 1586; that is about a hundred years before Sadashiva Brahmendra. In any case Sadashiva Brahmendra considered Sri Paramashivendra Saraswati as his Guru, named him as such in all his works and composed poetic works Navamani mala, Guru rathna maalika and Dakshina murti dhyana in tribute to the Guru.

Sadashiva Brahmendra was an active young man, talkative and always chirping away. On one occasion his incessant talk so annoyed his Guru that he in despair called out “Sadashiva! When will you learn to be quiet?” The disciple promptly replied, “Right now, Master”. He fell into silence and never talked again the rest of his life. He gradually withdrew from the world, introspected and plunged into intense penance. He discarded all norms of accepted behavior, wandered naked aimlessly in the hills and along the Cauvery. He looked wild and insane. When someone reported to Sri Paramashivendra that his disciple had gone insane, the Guru was delighted and exclaimed “Will I ever be so fortunate!” He realized that his disciple was now an Avadhuta. Sadashiva Brahmendra remained in that state; beyond body consciousness, not bound by ordinary social conventions and worldly concerns for a long period. A number of stories and myths grew around his mystical powers.


Sadasiva used to sit on a rock in the middle of the Cauvery for meditation. On one occasion, the waters of the river swept him away when he was in deep trance. He got buried under the sand. After six months, when cart men dug the soil, their axe struck against Sadasiva's head, drawing out blood. It was brought to the notice of the village headman. Fruit juice and gruel were rubbed over his body. Sadasiva woke up from sleep and walked away. It was since then He came to be known as Sadasiva Brahmam or Brahmendral.

Such was His disassociation with the body! Another instance that marked the disorientation of the body with the self in the case of Sadasiva Brahmendral was that when he once fell in between two bundles of straw when farmers not noticing it piled bundle after another over Him. When after nearly a year, the bundles were cleared, Brahmendra got up and moved on as if nothing had happened.

Maharaja Vijaya Ragunatha Thondaiman, the then ruler (1730-68) hearing about this, rushed to bring Brahmendra to the palace to be honoured. Brahmendra did not break his silence. The ruler pitched a camp in Tiruvarankulam (Pudukottai) and served the sage. Brahmendra answered his prayer by writing Sri Dakshinamoorthi Mantra on sand. Ragunatha Thondaiman gathered the sand in his angavastram and took it to his palace. Worship to the sanctified sand is offered to this day at Pudukottai.

Enlightened souls like Sadasiva Brahmendral, having realized that their true self was not that of the body totally disregarded it denying even the least pampering of sheltering it with clothes. Brahmendral used to wander without clothes and once a Muslim ruler mistook the naked seer for a mad man, chopped off one of his hands. The saint just started to walk off nonchalantly totally unconcerned. The king repented and sought forgiveness. Brahmendra placed the severed hand near the shoulder and it was back in its position. For what pain can inflict the one who though with the body was not confined to it, dismissing it as inert? Many such instances of Brahmendra's miracles, compassion and grace have come down.

Like most of the other saints or Jnanis, Sadasiva Brahmendral also shunned even the least comforts of the world. 'Maya' or 'illusion' only confronted with defeat as it could not even reach out to His shadow. He led a nomadic life, shunning even the least bit of comfort for His body and lived on the alms that he obtained through begging. Though remaining silent, He composed a good load of kirtans in praise of God. Though His life was generally wound with awe inspiring miracles, they were performed at the need of the occasions and not for any personal gains or recognition. Divine providence always intervened on occasions when He was about to be inflicted with any danger by ignorant people who mistook Him for His saintly strangeness. Such saints were totally cut off from the world and were established in reality that their mannerisms seemed queer to ignorant worldly folks.

Sadasiva was once relaxing near a heap of grains when His usual meditative mentality overpowered Him. He lost Himself in deep meditation that the farmer who owned the grains mistook Him for a thief. As he raised His stick to strike Sadasiva, he became a lifeless statue with the raised stick until day break when Sadasiva came out of His meditation and smiled at Him. The farmer with his restored life fell at the feet of the Master and asked for forgiveness.

In accordance with His nomadic lifestyle, as he was proceeding to Thirunelveli, a few people who were loading bundles of sticks ordered Him to give them a hand addressing Him as a 'stick'. Sadasiva in whom even the trace of pride was evacuated, meekly obliged to their words. When He was about to take leave, He was once again addressed as 'Log of wood'. This resulted in the burning of the logs suddenly throwing them in shock and shame!

On another occasion a pundit ridiculed Him of His silence as a pretext for not knowledgeable enough and that He was enacting a drama. The silent Sadasiva just walked up to an illiterate washer-man and inscribed some words on his tongue. The tongue of the illiterate man swept to recite the Veda mantras illustrating and arguing the lifestyle of a Jnani. Saints or Mahans existed for the welfare of the world at large. Their lives are marked with numerous occurrences of miraculously coming to the aid of the suffering. Once a bride collapsed dead on the wedding platform as fate would have it for a poisonous snake to sting her. It is said that Sadasiva appeared and recharged her dead body with life.

On another occasion He asked the children of Nerur to close their eyes when they wanted to go for a village fair in Manamadurai. When they opened their eyes they were with Him in the fair after which they were asked to repeat the process which resulted in making them present in Nerur. The parents were aghast about the happening but the children were jubilant about their experience.

Breaking of Silence

On one occasion when he met his past associate Sridhar Venkatesa Ayyaval, the later remarked that it was laudable to be a mauni in worldly matters; and questioned what prevented him from singing the praise of the Almighty. Sadashiva Brahmendra saw reason in the argument. He thereafter created a series of musical compositions. He used the mudra “paramahamsa”.

Some of his compositions include among others :
· Manasa sanchara re brahmani
· Pibare Rama Rasam
· Khelathi Mama Hridaye
· Bhajare Raghuveeram
· Gayathi Vanamali
· Bhajare Yadu Natham Maanasa
· Bruhi Mukundethi
· Sarvam Brahma mayam re re

He also wrote a number of philosophical works of high quality such as

Atma Vidya Vilasa
Brahma Sutra Vrithi
Yoga Sudhakara
Kaivalya Amrutha Bindu (based on Upanishads)
Siddantha Kalpa Valli (a poetic treatise on Appaiya Dikshitar’s work)
Advaita Rasa Manjari
Brahma Tattva Prakaashikaa
Mano Niyamana
Navamani mala
Guru Rathna Malika
Dakshina murthi dhyana

Sadasiva Brahmendra’s Atma Vidya Vilasa a true classic is the best known. Atma Vidya Vilasa is a poetic work running into 62 verses in simple, lucid Sanskrit. Its subject is renunciation. It describes the ways of the Avadhuta, one who is beyond the pale of social norms, beyond Dharma , beyond good and evil, one who has discarded scriptures, shastras, rituals or even the disciplines prescribed for sanyasis, one who has gone beyond the bodily awareness, one who realized the Self and one immersed in the bliss of self-realization. He is absolutely free and liberated in every sense - one who "passed away from" or "shaken off" all worldly attachments and cares, and realized his identity with God. The text describes the characteristics of an Avadhuta, his state of mind, his attitude and behavior. The text undoubtedly is a product of Sadashiva Brahmendra’s experience. It is a highly revered book among the Yogis and Sadhakas. Sadashiva Brahmendra lived in that exalted state on the banks of the Cauvery until he discarded his mortal body at its age of one hundred years or a little more, some time between 1750 and 1753. His Samadhi in Nerur, Karur district is now a shrine to a large number of devotees. His Aaradhana is celebrated annually on the tenth day of dark half of the month of Jeshta (some time during May each year).

Sringeri Jagadgurus and Atma vidya vilasa

Sadashiva Brahmendra and his classic work Atma vidya vilasa wielded an enormous influence on the life and Sadhana of the Sringeri Jagath Gurus. It was the 32nd Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peetam, Sri Nrusimha Bharathi VIII (1817-1879) that first recognized the greatness of Sadashiva Brahmendra and arranged for the upkeep and maintenance of his Samadhi. His successor Sri Satchidananda Sivabhinava Nrsimha Bharathi (1879-1912) made a seminal visit to the samadhi of the saint at Nerur. He became an ardent admirer and devotee of Sadashiva Brahmendra in whose praise he composed two poetic works (Sadashivendra Stuthi and Sadashiva Panchrathna) .He considered Sadashiva Brahmendra his ideal, tried to emulate his principles. He modeled his attitude, his ideals and his way of living in the light of Atma vidya vilasa. He gradually withdrew from the active administration of the Mutt starting from the year 1901and devoted increasingly to spiritual practices. Listening to Atma vidya vilasa and contemplating on it became a part of his daily spiritual exercise. He in his last days lived like an Avadhuta. He instructed his disciples that in the last moments of his life while he would be drawing his last breaths they should recite aloud the verses from the Atma vidya vilasa. He wished to die with those verses ringing in his ears. Such was his devotion to that text. But the one who really emulated Sadashiva Brahmendra and evolved into an Avadhuta was the 34th Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekhar Bharathi Swami. He studied Atma vidya vilasa intensely, imbibed its principles and truly lived according to that in word and deed .Unmindful of the external world he roamed wildly the hills of Sringeri like a child, an intoxicated, an insane and as one possessed singing aloud the verses from Atma vidya vilasa.

Discard the bondages of karma. Wander in the hills immersed in the bliss of the Self -unmindful of the world like a deaf and a blind (Atma Vidya Vilasa – Verse - 15)

Rooted in the Brahman absorbed in the bliss within, he for a while meditates, for a while sings and dances in ecstasy. (Atma Vidya Vilasa – Verse - 21)

He sees nothing, hears nothing, and says nothing. He is immersed in Brahman and in that intoxication is motionless. (Atma Vidya Vilasa – Verse - 44)

Sri Chandrasekhar Bharathi was the living epitome of the Atma vidya vilasa. He was an Avadhuta - a liberated soul, one who "passed away from" or "shaken off" all worldly attachments and cares, and has realized his identity with Self. He was an enlightened being who lived in a state beyond body-consciousness.

Avadhuta – a brief remark

Avadhuta (he who has shed everything) is a radical type of renouncer of an unconventional type. Avadhuta is one who has risen above bodily consciousness, duality and worldly concerns. He has no use for social etiquette. He is not bound by sanyasi dharma either. He roams the earth freely like a child, like an intoxicated or like one possessed. He is pure consciousness embodied.

Avadhuta Gita describes him

The avadhuta alone, pure in evenness of feeling, Abides happy in an empty dwelling place, Having renounced all, he moves about naked. He perceives the Absolute, the All, within himself. The Avadhuta never knows any mantra in vedic meter nor any Tantra. This is the supreme utterance of the Avadhuta, purified by meditation and merged in the sameness of the Supreme Being.

Ashtavakra Gita describes him in a similar manner:

The sage sees no difference between happiness and misery, Man and woman, Adversity and success. Everything is seen to be the same. In the sage there is neither Violence nor mercy, Arrogance nor humility, Anxiety nor wonder. His worldly life is exhausted. He has transcended his role as a person. The sage is not conflicted by states of stillness and thought. His mind is empty. His home is the Absolute. Knowing for certain that all is Self, The sage has no trace of thoughts. Such as “I am this” or “I am not that.” The yogi who finds stillness is neither distracted nor focused. He knows neither pleasure nor pain. Ignorance dispelled, He is free of knowing. Not all Sanyasis are Avadhutas and not all Avadhutas are Sanyasis. Of the four types of Avadhutas, Shaivavadhuta and Bramhavadhuta need not be sanyasis they could even be householders. The Dashanami avadhutas (those that bear names such as Vana, Aranya, Giri, Thirtha, Bharathi etc.) and Bhaktha vadutas are the other two. Of these, the Shaivadhutas and the Brahmavadutas indulge in Tantric practices. The Bhaktavadutas form the prominent group. It consists Paramahamsa (fully realized) and Parivrajaka (incomplete, wandering) classes. The former is considered incarnation of Shiva. He could be a sanyasi or a householder; he could wear clothes or could be naked. He is not bound by any restrictions. He has no fixed place of stay. Practices like meditation, rituals, worship etc. are irrelevant to him. He is beyond conflicts of pain and pleasure, gain or loss, joy or sorrow. He is ever immersed in bliss of Self-realization. Dattatreya is the supreme Avadhuta. There is a belief that Dattatreya composed the Avadhuta Gita, which describes the characteristics of an Avadhuta. Nath Sampradaya is a sect of Avadhutas that places great importance on the Guru and on Yoga. Avadhuta Gita is its text and Sri Ghorakhnath is its prime Avadhutha. The worship Datta is more prevalent in Maharashtra and North Karnataka. The Datta kshetras such as Ganagapur, Agadi and Baba Budan Giri in Karnataka are prominent centers of Datta worship.

Attainment of Jeeva Samathi

The time approached for Sadasiva to leave the mould of His body. Returning to Nerur, Brahmendra resolved to shed his body. By his yogic power, he communicated his decision to the rulers of Mysore, Thanjavur and Pudukottai. On their arrival, he gave directions as to how his Samadhi should be raised. On the appointed day, he sat in a pit in a yogic posture and the pit was filled with sacred ash, camphor, salt, turmeric powder and powdered brick and covered. He thus gave in to Jiva Samadhi. It is said that, at the same time, two devotees, one a Muslim, and the other a Brahmin, saw Brahmendra entering the Samadhi in Karachi and Manamadurai respectively. As per Brahmendra's prediction, a bilva shoot sprouted on the ninth day and a Banalinga arrived from Banaras on the twelfth day. The linga, instead of being placed on the samadhi, was installed twelve feet away from it. The bilva tree was left exposed to the sky.

Brahmendra's aradhana coincides with Sankara Jayanti.

Sadasiva Brahmendra at once belongs to the avadhuta tradition that can be traced back to Dattathreya and which emphasises Jnana and namasiddhanta tradition in which the focus is on bhakti, the chanting of the Lord's name. Jivan Muktas, though physically absent, are waiting to shed their grace and compassion on all those who invoke them with faith and devotion.


Article by Sri Sreenivasrao -
The Hindu - Mystic who shed grace and compassion – article by S. Jagadisan


Saraswathi said...

Very happy to find a detailed blog containing lots of details about Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra. It would be great if you can share with me his works what ever you have mentioned in your blog. I am trying to specialise in his works.

With warm regards,
CA Kumar Sitaraman
00971 50 5682468
PS: My parents live in Kovaipudur - Coimbatore..

srk said...

Excellent and very informative article. May I know the dates of Aradhana in 2011? Is there any facility to stay in Nerur for a night, or which is the nearest town where we can get a room for stay> S.Ramakirushnan

DREAMZ said...

This reading has done so much to me. I just can't express the magnitude in words. All these days I have been hearing the songs Pibare ramarasam, Kelati mamahridaye, maanasa sancharare thinking that they are Thyagaraja keerthanas(Telugu no?). I hear the songs very often b'coz I luv them so much. But suddenly the realization about the author and his lifestyle, my God, I really feel very blessed to know all these. Just now I'm listening to the Balamurali songs. It's just great. I have enjoyed Unnikrishnan before. But today just God blessed me with Balamurali. The songs are heavenly. And I thank Mr A.V.Devan very much for giving such detailed information about the saint. We had a friend from Chennai who told me that he is a devotee of the saint. He is serving in RBI. But when I opened the net today only I realised that the saint is familiar to me since long through my favourite songs. I'm so happy and I feel so blessed. I would luv to go to Nerur. I hope Iam able to go. Thanks a lot Mr Devan

Anonymous said...

I reflect/repeat every bit DREAMZ said.
Thanks so much for this blog.Was listening to this rendition of one of his krithis by Kunnakkudi.
There were aanandha bashpam welling off my eyes, for both the saint and Kunnakudi.